The Maple Leafs Have Too Many Holes To Take Trade Deadline Risks

Oct 26, 2023; Dallas, Texas.
Oct 26, 2023; Dallas, Texas. / Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The Toronto Maple Leafs have hitched their wagon to a core of superstar forwards and defenseman Morgan Rielly in their elusive quest for a Stanley Cup championship.

Rielly, Auston Matthews, and William Nylander are Toronto Maple Leafs for the long haul with a future commitment likely coming Mitch Marner's way.

Starting next season, when Nylander's recent extension kicks in, the Leafs will have 4 of the top 11 AAV player salaries in the NHL.

Devoting that much money to a minimal amount of players is a contentious issue, but it is the route the Leafs have chosen. Choosing that path, however, limits the Leafs flexibility with roster maneuvers.

The Toronto Maple Leafs Have Too Many Holes To Take Trade Deadline Risks

Dollar-for-dollar deals are rare in the NHL, and the Leafs already have fewer draft picks because of prior transactions.

On top of that, this version of the Leafs is strikingly inconsistent. Quality victories over the Vancouver Canucks, New York Rangers, Florida Panthers and Pittsburgh Penguins have been countered by ugly losses to the Columbus Blue Jackets, Buffalo Sabres, and Ottawa Senators.

The Leafs are capable of and have rebounded from in-game, multiple-goal deficits, but have shown an inability to protect leads. Their recent four-game losing streak included blowing two-goal leads in three of them.

With their influx of new players, their defensive structure from last season has disappeared. In losses to the Colorado Avalanche, Carolina Hurricanes, and Rangers those Cup-contending teams controlled the game in protecting a third-period lead.

The Leafs, on the other hand, look chaotic and panicked when nursing late leads.

There are multiple reasons for the Leafs defensive deficiencies.

Their goaltending is uncertain, to say the least. The defense needs 2-3 additions and their bottom-six forwards are uninspiring.

The Leafs have too many questions with their roster that a single, trade deadline will fix.

Joseph Woll looked promising early in the season, but he has an injury history and limited NHL experience. Ilya Samsonov has been searching for his game all year, and Jones is perhaps regressing to the mean during his last few starts.

The Leafs defense does not compare favorably to most cup contenders. Mark Giordano and T.J. Brodie hit unrestricted free agency next summer, so the Leafs can augment their back end then.

Forwards Tyler Bertuzzi and Max Domi will also be free agents, giving the team flexibility next summer. They can look elsewhere in free agency, with a trade, or promote from within with prospects like Fraser Minter or Easton Cowan.

Unless a team is willing to take a low draft pick for help on the blue line, the Leafs are best to bide their time.

That is a hard pill to swallow with the upper-level forward talent on the roster, but this is not the season to gamble.

The Toronto Maple Leafs best hope is to catch lightning in a bottle with their star forwards and a hot goalie, then go on an unexpected run with the volatility of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.


It's not awe-inspiring, but the facts suggest the roster retool needs to wait.